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Pie in the Sky

August 10, 2011

Today I was convinced technology hated me.

It took me the longest time to upload pictures because my computer was not cooperating.

There was even a point a time where I thought I wasn’t going to get this post up at all.

That all of my hard work in the kitchen had gone to waste.

So I stepped away from the computer, had a glass of wine, ate dinner and took my mind off of technology by catching up on celebrity gossip.

When I felt somewhat calm again, I returned to my computer and attempted to upload my pictures one last time.

And wouldn’t you know it.  It worked. 🙂

I cooked up a storm today in my kitchen. I made a ton of things that I’m hoping to blog about in the next coming weeks.

One of the projects I was most excited to make was homemade pizza!

That meant dough from scratch!

I used this recipe as guidance, since it was my first time making the dough.  Better safe than sorry right?

So first I dissolved one packet of active dry yeast into 1 1/2 cups warm water.

Then in a separate bowl I mixed together 5 cups all purpose flour and 1 1/2 tsp. salt.

Once mixed, I added the yeast/water mixture to the flour and salt.

I mixed it together until it formed a soft dough ball.

If you follow the recipe above exactly, you’ll need to add a little more water, as the dough is a bit dry.  No biggie though, just add water one spoonful at a time until it comes together.

I floured my countertop and kneaded the dough for about 1o minutes.

  

Man it’s been awhile since I’ve kneaded dough.  It’s a workout in itself!

Once the dough was smooth, I oiled a large bowl, put the dough in it and covered it loosely with a damp dish towel.

  

I stuck it in my oven [that was turned off] for about 2 hours, until it doubled in size.

Woohoo it grew!

I was a little excited at this point.  That means I did something right.

I took the bowl out of the oven and punched the down in the center to deflate it. <–That was fun too

  

Then I transferred the deflated dough onto the countertop and cut it into three pieces.

I formed each piece into a ball and put them in their own [oiled] bowls.

   

I covered them loosely with plastic wrap and put them back in the oven to rest for another hour or so.

Then I wrapped them individually in plastic wrap.  I froze two of them and put the other one in the fridge for later.

Since the oven was now free, I figured I’d get started on some pizza toppings!

I sliced and roasted some butternut squash and potato.

  

I just seasoned them with olive oil, salt and pepper.

I cooked them in a 375 degree oven F until they were tender and took them out to cool.

Once it was close to dinner time, I took out the pizza dough from the fridge and let it come to room temperature.

Then I floured the countertop [again] and rolled out the dough.

I like a somewhat thinner crust so I rolled mine out until I was happy with the thickness and transferred it to a greased sheet pan.

I pricked a few holes in it with a fork and drizzled a little olive oil over top.

I blind baked it in a 350 degree F oven until about halfway cooked through.

I then took it out and let it cool a little.

Then it was time for the toppings!

I used this amazingly creamy ricotta cheese that I made [posting about that soon] as the base.

Then I topped it with the roasted potato, butternut squash, some caramelized red onions [had them in the fridge], Cherokee purple tomato and grated parmigiano reggiano cheese.

I baked it for another few minutes and then turned the oven to broil to really crisp and brown everything.

When it came out I sprinkled a little oregano, fresh parsley and garlic gold nuggets over top.

Then things got crazy and I drizzled some balsamic reduction over it all. Ohhh yeah.

Served with a glass of cheap, Trader Joe’s red wine and I’m a happy girl.

This is a billion times better than any frozen or delivery pizza that I’ve ever had.

Seriously between the homemade crust and ricotta cheese I was dying with how good this was.

I’ve also never had butternut squash on a pizza and you know what?

That was delicious too!  It added a nice bit of sweetness.

I can’t wait for the leftovers tomorrow.

The true test of this pizza will be if it’s just as delicious cold.

Yes I’m a sucker for cold pizza.

So what did we learn today?

– When technology or other life things suck, step away from it for a little and do something else.  More times than not, it will work itself out.

– Make your pizza dough. Seriously go get the flour and yeast and do it now!  You’ll thank me later.

Have a good night!

Vanessa 🙂

P.S. Don’t forget to challenge yourself!

P.S.S.  Charlotte Food Bloggers are meeting up at Chow Down Uptown Food Truck Rally on Thursday 8/18!  A day before I leave on my work trip, yikes!  Hope to see some of you there!

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The Challenge

August 9, 2011

Hey guys!

Do you know what today is?

Yes, I’m aware that it’s Tuesday.  Guess again.

Today is the day that I’m announcing the first ingredient in my “Secret Ingredient Challenge”!

Any guesses what it might be?

I went to the market today with a completely open mind and honestly bought a few things that I never buy.

With so many things to chose from, I wanted to go with something seasonal and fresh.

After all, that’s when food tastes the best right?

So this week’s secret ingredient is…

….[Drumroll]….

PEACHES!

[Laura you will be ecstatic with this one]

Peaches are so in right now at the markets.  People are selling them by the case, literally.

So I thought why not take advantage of it?

Yeah, I didn’t buy a case, just so you guys know.

So what’s the rules in this challenge?

The point is to take the secret ingredient, in this case peaches, and make something delicious with it being the star.

Example: peach cobbler. 

As far as a time frame goes, I’m going to set it at one week from the time the ingredient is revealed.

Remember this challenge isn’t just for me, it’s for all of you guys too!  So if you feel like participating don’t be shy and let me know!

If you take pictures or make a recipe or blog about it yourself, I want to know!  Send me the link or pictures, etc. and I’ll include it in my post a week from now!

So what’s in a peach?

Only you can decide…

Any questions?

Your challenge starts….

NOW!

Vanessa 🙂

Sunday Eats.

August 7, 2011

Typically on Sundays I like to be in the kitchen all day experimenting and creating new things.

However today was not one of those typical days.

I cleaned like a mad woman.

I ate cold pizza for breakfast.

I did laundry.

Then instead of coming up with something new, I turned to food that felt comforting to me.

An old, childhood favorite, crispy, baked chicken wings.

They’re really pretty simple.

Just make your own spice blend of your choice.

Honestly I’m not even sure if I remember exactly what I put in that mix.

Paprika was there.  So was garlic powder and salt.  The rest is a blur.

It should be noted that as I was gathering spices, I knocked over my black sesame seeds.

Let’s just say I’m still picking them up.

Damnit man.

So once the spice blend is done.  Then I just took my really awesome and favorite broiler pan and sprayed it with non stick spray [you can never be too careful].

I washed and patted dry some chicken wings and put them on the broiler pan.

I generously sprinkled them with the spice blend, but only on one side.

See?

I baked them in a 375 degree F oven for about 25 minutes.

Then I flipped over the wings to the other side.

And sprinkled them with more spices.

   

Then back in the oven they went for another 20 minutes.

While those were going, I went rummaging through my fridge to see what produce I could use up.

Since I have an overabundance of potatoes, I went that route.

I just wedged a couple sweet potatoes and tossed them with olive oil, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper.

Onto a sheet pan they went and in the oven for 20 minutes or so.

It also should be noted that I flipped the chicken wings back over to the side they started on and popped them back in for 10 minutes to finish.

A few minutes of waiting and dinner is served!

Ketchup on the side for the sweet potato wedges of course 🙂

  

I love these wings for a few reasons…

1. SO freaking flavorful.  Plus you can customize the spices in a million different ways. No sauce needed.

2. No frying!! Which means no messy fry oil to clean up. Major points!

3. Crispy, delicious skin. Oh yeah, I said it.

I also was a good girl and ate my veggies in the form of a salad.

Romaine lettuce, avocado, red onion, Cherokee purple tomato, corn, black beans, feta cheese and a homemade fig balsamic vinaigrette.

You know come to think of it, that salad would have been good on its own for dinner.

But hey, it’s Sunday and I wanted a feast.

Plus now I have leftovers for tomorrow.  Winning!

Alright this girl’s got some reality tv shows to watch! Hellooo Real Housewives and Kardashians.

Please don’t judge me.

[What are your favorite reality shows?]

Goodnight!

Vanessa 🙂

P.S.  Planning on choosing an ingredient for the secret ingredient challenge this week.  It has not been decided yet, so open for suggestions and ideas!

Saturday Festivities

August 6, 2011

Happy Saturday!!

Usually Saturdays to me mean a morning out at the markets.

While I did check out the farmer’s markets today, I was bummed to not see anything inspiring.

I walked out with only two lonely tomatoes.

You win some, you lose some I guess.

I didn’t let that put a damper on my day though!

The rest of my Saturday was to be filled with festivities

I met Mary and Jamie at Mary’s place and then we walked to Moe’s to get some free burritos [Mary had coupons, Thanks Mary 🙂 ].

I got a chicken burrito with a whole bunch of fixings inside.

They also have one of those amazing Coca Cola machines that are touch screen and have over 100 + drink combinations available.

I was a little excited to see this and a little overwhelmed all at the same time with all of my choices.

One of the guys that worked there overheard me talking about it and said that the built like a ferrari or something like that.

I’m not too sure, but I’ll take his word for it.

After Moe’s we went to Starbucks for some caffeine and then to Harris Teeter for dessert makings.

Even though that sun was hot, it was a really nice day to walk around the city.

We got back to Mary’s and just sort of hung out for a while.

Wine was drunk and we watched a few episodes of SATC aka the bible.

Then we were starting to feel a little hungry, so it was time to make some pizzas!

Jamie and Mary were really getting into it! 🙂

We used pizza dough from Trader Joe’s [white and wheat] and customized our own little pizzas to our liking.

I went with the white pizza dough and topped it with pizza sauce, shredded and ricotta cheese, onion, chicken sausage, tomatoes and some oregano.

In the oven it went.

About 15-20 minutes later, we had pizza!

Ohhh yeah.

This was going to be good.

  

Jaime’s [left] and Mary’s [right] pizzas turned out to be good too!

We made a quick salad on the side too.

Have to eat your veggies kids! 🙂

For dessert we made a “erry” crisp.

A cherry and blackberry crisp to be exact.

Mary did a stellar job pitting some cherries!

We tossed the cherries and blackberries with a little flour and sugar and put them in a baking dish.

Then for the topping we mixed together butter, flour, oats and brown sugar.

We stuck the crisp in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the berries were bursting and the topping was brown and crispy.

Served with a scoop of ice cream of course.

Mmh!  So good!

It was nice to have a girl’s night of wine, good eats and good laughs.  Must do this more often!

Thanks again Mary for organizing a great get together!!

———————-

Off tomorrow!

Who knows what the day has in store!

[Are you doing anything fun this weekend??]

Goodnight!

Vanessa 🙂

Lemon Curd and Mixed Berry Semifreddo.

August 4, 2011

Yesterday I talked about firsts and I told you I would show you another first of mine today.

Lucky for you guys, I’m a girl of my word.

Yesterday I made my first….

Semifreddo!

It’s SO delicious!

Lemon curd and berries. Yum.

I used this recipe as a guideline since I never made it before.

I took a ton of pictures to show you guys the entire process.

So let’s get started!

For my mixed berries, I used blackberries and blueberries.

If you like raspberries, they would also be good in here, but I’m not a fan of them.

I put them in a bowl and mashed them up with a potato masher.

A potentially messy job, but a fun one.

I set the mashed berries aside for later.

Next I whipped up some heavy cream until it formed peaks.

  

It really is amazing to me how you can take cream and whip air into it to create something so light and fluffy.

Seriously who was the person who thought to do that?

In a separate bowl I poured in some lemon curd that I already had on hand.

Even if you don’t have any on hand, it’s SO easy to make..

Lemon zest + juice, egg yolks, sugar and butter.

Do it.

I then folded the whipped cream into the lemon curd ever so gently.

  

Until it was fully incorporated, and looked like this.

I set that bowl aside.

Then it was time to whip the egg whites!

I busted out the big guns for this task.

I bought this old egg beater when I went antiquing a while back.

I’ve been wanting to mess around with it, so I did.

Woo hoo! Success!

It was kind of fun.

I should of put on a string of pearls and a dress.  You know just like they did in the olden days.

I took the whipped egg whites and gently folded them into the whipped cream and lemon curd mixture.

  

You still with me?

We’re getting there, I promise!!

I then took about three quarters of the mashed berries and folded them into the lemon mix.

  

I only mixed it just to get a marbled affect of sorts.

Last preparation step!

I lined a loaf pan [whatever size you have. Mine was kind of large] with plastic wrap.

I poured the berry and lemon mixture into the lined loaf pan.

  

I spread it out evenly with a rubber spatula and then covered it fully with plastic wrap and stuck it in the freezer.

I let mine freeze overnight, but it will be frozen in a few hours.

I checked it early last night and it was frozen and I put it in the freezer around 2:00-3:00pm, just to give you an idea.

This morning I was giddy with excitement to see how it all turned out!

I inverted the pan on top of a cutting board and removed the wrap.

  

Then I cut it into slices.

I put the sliced semifreddo on a plate and topped it with more mashed berries, toasted coconut and coconut whipped cream.

For the coconut whipped cream, I scooped out the milky part out of a [chilled] can of coconut milk into a bowl, making sure to not have any of the watery part in the bowl

Then I just whipped it like you would regular cream.  I sweetened it a little powdered sugar.

It’s SO good.  I got the idea from Pinterest. 

It’s so refreshingly tart and sweet all at the same time.

  

I don’t have an ice cream maker, so this is the closet thing I’ve made to it.

   

  You guys really should try this.

Really.

Think of all the different flavor possibilities.

I am.

Oh an I might have had a piece of this for breakfast.

🙂

Vanessa

Sometimes…

August 3, 2011

Sometimes I do strange things.

  

Like make grape juice.

  

Because I never have before.

  

And there’s a first time for everything.

Stay tuned.

Another first for you all to see in my next post.

And speaking of firsts…

Guess who just bought a ticket to her first food blog conference?

This girl!

I’m attending Food Blog Forum in Nashville in October!

I’m super excited.

Anyone else going??

Alright.  I have to go because it’s 8 pm and I haven’t eaten dinner yet.

That happens sometimes.

Have a good night!

Vanessa 🙂

You Complete Me.

August 2, 2011

l think I have a problem.

Like an addiction problem.

Fried eggs!!!

I put them on everything and use them as my “go to” fixer upper on any dish.

Today’s victim?

Sweet potato, zucchini and corn hash.

Ok this was more than a fixer upper to this dish.

The eggs completed it.

Like Jerry Macguire.

Pretend the hash is “Tom Cruise” and the “egg” is Renee Zellweger.

The hash [Tom Cruise] says “You complete me”, and than the egg [Renee Zellweger] replies with “You had me at hello.”

Then they lived happily ever after.

Yes that movie reference was totally necessary in case you were asking yourself that.

Now let’s get down to business, shall we?

I started by gathering my ingredients.

Zucchini, sweet potato, half an onion, corn and eggs.

Oh I grabbed my grater too.

Then I went to town grating the zucchini, potato and onion.

I didn’t grate the corn, I just cut it off the cob.

I love me a simple and quick mise en place.

🙂

In an ovenproof pan, I heated up some oil and butter.

I dropped in the grated onion.

I gave it a stir and let it caramelize a bit.

Then I added the grated sweet potato to the pan.

Next came the zucchini.

I stirred it around and let it start to cook down a little.

Then I added the raw corn kernels to the mix.

This is when I really just had to walk away from the pan and really let it all caramelize together.

Once about there, I took the pan off the heat and cracked two eggs over the hash.

Whoa.

Let’s take a double take at those eggs shall we??

I got a double yolker!

That’s when you crack an egg and not one but TWO yolks come out.

Man is it my lucky day or what?!

I put the whole pan in the oven under a high broil until the eggs were set.

  

Ohhhh yeah.

This might not be heaven, but it’s pretty damn close.

I topped the eggs and hash with grated cheese, homemade tomatillo salsa and of course, ketchup.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you can’t have a hash without ketchup.

Call me crazy.

Yeah…

I literally inhaled this.

It was THAT good.

I think I might have to make a repeat of this tomorrow.

Just saying…

So when in a doubt, put a fried egg on top of it 🙂

—————-

Still looking for some feedback about the secret ingredient challenge I want to start!  I’ve had a few great responses so far.  I’m thinking I will start it next week, because this week is far too busy.  The hardest part of the challenge?  Choosing the ingredient!!!!  Anyone have any suggestions or requests?

On another note, posting this week might get a little inconsistent.

The restaurant is open for Cirque du Soleil this week, so I might be working weird hours.  I’ll try to post as much as I can though!

Hope you guys had a wonderful Tuesday!!

Vanessa 🙂